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Pa. woman says hope can prevail after loss of a child

August 06, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - News of the drowning of a 3-year-old boy Wednesday in Fayetteville, Pa., brings back to Sandy Bowling memories of the daughter she lost six years ago.

Aiden Rupp of 153 Hickory Drive, drowned in a neighbor's pool Wednesday morning, according to Franklin County Coroner Jeffrey R. Conner. The death was ruled accidental, Conner said Thursday.

Sandy and John Bowling of Quincy, Pa., lost their daughter, Olivia, when she drowned in a residential swimming pool in 1998.

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"Olivia was 21/2 ... a spunky little redhead," Sandy said Thursday. She said her daughter "loved life and lived her little life to the very fullest."

"No one will ever know unless you've actually lost a child yourself," she said of the despair her family felt.

The family came through the tragedy, thanks in part to a support group the couple joined. Paul Baker, a retired pastor in Chambersburg, served as the facilitator for the Bereaved Parents Support Group, which met monthly at a church in Chambersburg, Bowling said.

Over the years, the group stopped meeting regularly, but recently has come together again for a special purpose, Sandy Bowling said.

"We're writing about our children's lives," she said.

When the group used to meet, much of the focus was on working through the emotional trauma experienced by the fathers and mothers, "which was exactly what we were supposed to do," Bowling said.

"We never really got to hear about the children," she said. That led to her publishing a newsletter, A Celebration of Life, with the families recounting the lives of the children.

"It was inspirational knowing there was hope at the end of this lifelong journey," Bowling said of the newsletter. The stories of those children's lives are being put into a book, "Our Journey," with each family from the group writing a chapter.

Bowling said the book is almost ready for the publisher and should be available this fall.

Their own journey was not an easy one, but Sandy Bowling said her family emerged intact.

"I didn't do this alone. John and I went through this together," she said.

The Bowlings have two sons who were 4-years-old and 8-months-old when Olivia died. When talking to them about Olivia, the couple remembers to tell them about the child's "mischievous side," Sandy Bowling said.

The parents of the support group remain close knit and ready to help others who have lost a child, according to Bowling.

"We're living proof you can survive it," she said.

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